A passenger train in Switzerland. Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison wants to bring a similar, but much smaller in scale, electric service to the region. Photo: Andi Graf/Pixabay

Kootenay-Columbia MP exploring electric passenger train service

Rob Morrison says a train from Cranbrook to Creston makes sense

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison says he’s working on a pitch to bring an electric passenger train service to the region.

Morrison said there is a clear need for more transportation options in the Kootenays, as well as ones that use clean energy. A small train, with perhaps 24 passengers he says, that runs on CP Rail lines is realistic.

“To me, I think it’s manageable,” said Morrison. “We can use existing tracks, we can use existing technology for electric.”

Travel throughout the Kootenays is currently limited to personal vehicles, BC Transit routes and limited flights out of airports such as those in Castlegar, Trail and Cranbrook.

Morrison said constituents have told him a Cranbrook-Creston route that travels through Yahk makes sense, especially in the winter when highway conditions make driving difficult and tend to cancel flights out of Castlegar.

Eventually, he said, other routes such as Nelson-Castlegar would be added as well.

“I think it would be great if I could come to a meeting in Nelson by just jumping on the train in Creston, spend a day and night or whatever and move on,” he said. “I think it’d be awesome.”

Morrison said the idea isn’t just a politician’s daydream either.

He’s had a meeting with Tesla to discuss the concept — no, it would not be a Hyperloop — and is putting together a feasibility study that would make an environmental and business case for small-scale passenger service that can be presented to the federal government.

“I’m not trying to start a multi-billion dollar enterprise,” he said.

Speed limits on CP Rail lines, as well as the Kootenays’ mountainous geography, rule out a high-speed train concept. But Morrison, a Conservative MP, said a regional electric train service works as a non-partisan solution that he thinks will appeal to the Liberal government, which has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030.

“This is very good for our environment. It’s good for our communities,” said Morrison.

Passenger train service in the Kootenays ended in the 1960s, but Morrison isn’t the first person to consider bringing it back in some form.

A group of residents pitched CP Rail on a passenger service that would run between Procter and Nelson, but that plan went nowhere after CPR said in 2011 it wasn’t interested in operating the service.

In 2019, Castlegar and District Economic Development put a call out for consultants to research a train service that could be used by either commuters or tourists. Nothing came of it.

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@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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